Fear and Transitions....

Life seems to be a series of change…of transitions… of “what’s next”? I know for me, if I’m not careful, I can easily forget to enjoy the moment in my excitement for planning for what’s next. It started so early. The first time I can remember it was when I started thinking about going to school. Big kids go to school. Going to school was cool. Then it was about going to middle school, and getting a driver’s license, and going to high school, going to college, starting a career, finding my passion, getting married, having babies, buying a house, moving, vacations, dealing with health changes, death of loved ones, birth of grandchildren …On and on and on…Looking back it was like one big transition after another. Some were bigger and more life changing transitions than others but all shared one thing in common… Excitement, fear or a combination of both.

Being a bit of an adrenaline junky, it was always relatively easy for me to “rename” my feelings of fear to excitement. Some who know me may suggest I don’t carry ENOUGH fear. I’m more of a “jump and trust the parachute will open” person than one who analyzes all the pros and cons of a decision before making one. I trust my gut a lot and most of my life, it’s worked well for me. When it hasn’t, I learn and move on. I’ve been knocked down and gotten up so many times that failure doesn’t really scare me much. I know I can handle it. Luckily, my sweetheart Robert has the ability to figure out ALL the things that could possibly go wrong and come up with a solution to them before they even happen, so between us, we’ve got the bases covered.

This time, I get to experience a lot of transitions at one time. First, I’m closing down the clinic my partner and I have been running for 25 years and retiring from a career I’ve been lucky enough to love since 1982. Second, we’re moving from living in comfortable spaces “on the hard”, to sharing a 35 ft by 11 ft sailboat. And of course, there’s covid-19 turning our world upside down. Most importantly, my parents are aging and experiencing their own transitions. My mother is facing huge health concerns, my step-father just turned 91 and my father and stepmom are planning their move into “Senior Living”. My parents are so young and live such healthy lifestyles that I've always thought they'd outlive me. Still, the fear is present that it just might not be the case and the thought of living without them is unimaginable.

I always thought I would never really retire from working with people with Autism. I’ve always felt grateful to have found what I considered my purpose in life and to be able to learn and grow along side so many wonderful colleagues over the years. I’ve been a speech/language pathologist and an autism consultant for so many years of my life that there’s a bit of fear about who I’ll be when I’m no longer “that”. Who will be left? I know I will continue to be a wife, a mother, a friend, an advocate and a teacher in some respects but it almost feels as if a chunk of me will get left behind when we sail off. I’m curious to see if there’s a void and if so, what shows up to fill that void over time…

Transitioning to boat living will be interesting because neither Robert nor I are very good at organization (yet). This might be just the experience we need to develop a new skill! We’ve had friends who have been cruising for years give us lists and strategies to make sure we know where everything “lives” and ways to track what we have left. We’ll see… We may just do it our own way and have lots of surprises! It’s actually quite exciting for me to reduce our carbon foot print and realize how very little we need to survive. I look back at ALL the time spent caring for the “things” of life. The houses, the cars, the boats, the toys, the yards..Yes, we’ll have our sailboat to care for but it will be a different kind of existence. One I’m looking forward to experiencing…

Covid-19 brings it’s own fears, especially in these times when we need to count on each other. We can’t JUST be responsible for our own health yet we have no control over the behavior of others. Luckily, our cozy Solveig allows us to stay pretty separated when needed. We’re counting on the ability to get supplies when needed and to get into the Bahamas when we’re ready to hop. This means we’ll need to find places to get tested right before we leave and once we’re in the country AND, plenty of supplies to quarantine if needed. We’re committed to doing whatever it takes to keep ourselves as healthy as possible so we can enjoy this adventure!

Then there’s the fear about the actual sailing/cruising. I’ve always been a person who prides herself on her independence. I’ve had no doubt that whatever came my way, I could handle it. I don’t feel that way about sailing quite yet but I’m working on it. We’ve had a “ladies only” sailing day recently where friends and I practiced maneuvers and worked on our skills. I’m committed to continuing to practice and hone my skills so that I know that no matter what, I’m capable of handling the boat myself. I’m grateful to have a wonderful partner, companion, cheerleader, sweetheart AND we both need to trust that I have the skills needed to solo sail if necessary. Working on that part…

Most importantly there’s the fear about being able to be “present” for my parents. They’ve given me so much and I want to be the support they want/need. I keep telling myself that I can jump on a plane from anywhere AND, covid-19 adds an extra fear to that too. But the fear for them is real….and hard…and scary... and I know that it will remain present with me no matter where I am. The goal for me is not to get rid of fear but to live fully in the face of it. To let that fear immobilize me would be to just stop living and that’s not an option for me and I know it would hurt them too.

A friend posted this wonderful quote from Khalil Gibran posted below entitled, “Fear”. It really spoke to me when I read it. There is no going back in existence…We can only move forward. Here’s to going forward…Fear or not.… Trusting that, whatever comes our way, we can handle it.

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